October typically ushers in the flu season, and health officials are urging everyone at least six months old to get a flu shot soon, as it takes two weeks for the vaccine to start working.
According to USA Today, last year’s flu season was relatively mild compared to previous years.
The influenza or flu viruses are spread when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes or touches a surface handled by others. It can be mild or severe and infects millions of Americans every year. On average, more than 226,000 people are hospitalized annually, which includes 20,000 children under the age of 5, according to the Greenwich Health Department.
About 24,000 people die from complications of the flu yearly. The best way to prevent getting the flu is to get vaccinated, according to Greenwich Health Director Caroline Baisley. It takes up to two weeks after vaccination for protection (immunity) to develop in the majority of adults. For proper protection from the seasonal flu virus, the Department of Health has scheduled immunization clinics throughout the month of October. Persons 9 years and older will be eligible to receive influenza vaccine at Department clinics. The Fluzone High-Dose vaccine, made especially for people 65 years of age and older, will be offered at clinics.
Baisley said, “Getting vaccinated for seasonal influenza is the best way to provide protection against circulating influenza viruses. Although many take advantage of getting vaccinated early, getting vaccinated later in the season can also be beneficial since protection against the virus will last. The traditional flu season begins early October and runs through May in most years and sustained influenza transmission is usually not seen before January or later."
Here is the schedule for flu shot clinics scheduled by the Greenwich Health Department:
- Oct. 4: Senior Health Fair, Eastern Greenwich Civic Center; 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.
- Oct. 11: Greenwich Town Hall; 3 - 6 p.m.
- Oct. 17: Eastern Greenwich Civic Center; 3 - 6 p.m.
- Oct. 25: Western Greenwich Civic Center; 3 - 6 p.m.
- Oct. 30: Greenwich Town Hall; 2 - 5 p.m.
Each year the seasonal influenza vaccine contains three influenza viruses – one influenza A (H3N2) virus, one influenza A (H1N1) virus and one influenza B virus. The 2009 H1N1 influenza strain is included because it continues to circulate in the U.S. The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so one cannot get the flu from a flu shot.
Some minor side effects that could occur are: low grade fever, soreness and aches. Influenza can affect anyone; however, those 65 years of age and older have a higher risk for complications from influenza. Usually people experience a rapid onset of high fever (although not all individuals exhibit fever), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, chills, headache, fatigue and body aches.
The vaccine also can be acquired at the doctor’s, clinics, pharmacies and sometimes schools.
For additional information about the vaccine, flu symptoms, who should and should not receive the shot, please read the attached informational sheet (at right) provided by the Greenwich Health Department.
Editor Anthony Karge contributed to this report.